I've been meaning to write about Kaelen's birth day to preserve the memory of it, as well as to share the story with friends who don't know how it all transpired. I debated between writing it up on my personal facebook page or posing it here. You can guess my decision.
December 21, 2011 was the winter solstice, the day with the fewest hours of daylight of the year. It was the longest shortest day of my life.
The alarm started beeping shortly before 6. I was scheduled for an induction and had been instructed to call the hospital at 6 a.m. to find out what time to arrive. We were thinking, oh, 10. The answer: 7:00 a.m. Yikes! We leapt out of bed - OK, I moved as quickly as a pregnant woman a week past her due date could - took showers, ate breakfast, and put my bag into the car. Thank goodness we only live about 3 miles from the hospital and that it's a straight shot. At most it's a 15-minute drive.
The game of "Hurry up and Wait" began. Upon our arrival at the hospital, we were directed to the business office to complete paperwork. And wait. That task complete, we headed to the 14th floor. Again, we waited.
While we were waiting to be seen by the nurse and settled into a room, we sat in the waiting room and listened to a woman screaming through the final stages of her labor. I don't mean moaning. I mean full on screaming at the top of her lungs. I tried hard to ignore it but instead felt discouraged, especially since I had decided that I wanted to see how far into my labor I could make it before asking for drugs. Would that be me? Could I handle the pain? People talk about labor pain being the most awful thing they've ever experienced. I wasn't feeling very confident at that moment.
We finally got into a room on the Labor & Delivery floor. And waited some more. The nurse eventually come to see us. She explained that she had been assigned to monitor my progress and that of the woman being induced in the next room. Then she started to get down to brass tacks: explaining how the day would progress, hooking me up to a fetal monitor, checking my cervix, completing yet more paperwork, and taking my vital signs.
I took my first dose of Cytotek, the medication to help induce labor.
Each round of the medication is preceded by 30 minutes of fetal monitoring and followed by an hour of monitoring. After I was "released", I was told to walk laps around the hospital for an hour, and then return for the next bit of monitoring and medication.
My second dose of Cytotek.
My third and final dose.
Hospitals were not made for walking laps. It was a very boring and tiring day.
The fetal monitoring showed that I was having some contractions. Honestly, though, I didn't really feel them. After checking my cervix and finding that it was the same at 6:00 as it had been 10 hours earlier in the day, the doctor suggested I return on December 23, two days later, to finish the induction. He wanted me to come back in the evening, take additional doses of the Cytotek overnight (no walking required), be able to sleep through the monitoring and labor, and have my son after the medication had had more time to do its work in my body.
As you might imagine, Gene and I were disappointed. We'd told everyone that the induction was going to happen and we'd gotten emotionally ready help me go through the labor. We were tired. I was sick of being pregnant and eager to meet our son.
We checked out of the hospital and it was about 6:30 p.m. by the time we got to our empty home. Rosemary had been sent to my folks' house until after we returned from the hospital with a new baby. I missed her and wished she were there so I could snuggle with her.
The combination of not having slept well the night before, having shuffled countless laps around the mind-numbingly boring corridors of the hospital, and the disappointment of the failed induction caught up with me. I was exhausted and went to bed.
There was one small problem, however: frequent, but not painful, contractions prevented me from sleeping. I used Gene's phone app to time them, dozing off in between, and by 9:00 they averaged 4-5 minutes apart.
Gene called the hospital to ask if we should return. The nurses, after being told I had described my contractions as "feeling like hard menstrual cramps", told him I should drink some water and take a bath to see if that helped alleviate the contractions. I did both, and both actions seemed to help.
The frequency and intensity of my contractions had both increased significantly, though the pain was not intolerable by any means. Each contraction, now ranging from 2-3 minutes apart, brought with it a wave of heat. I laid on our bed with the ceiling fan on me and when the contraction ended I would huddle under the covers to warm myself. I was still trying to get some sleep.
Gene checked on me every 10 minutes or so and ask if I wanted to go to the hospital. I felt listless and indecisive, distracted by my contractions. I didn't really want to go anywhere and didn't think I was in heavy labor yet.
Gene came into the bedroom to check on me and made an executive decision: he was taking me to the hospital. I relented, but reluctantly. Despie my contractions being minutes apart, I wasn't in much pain and doubted that my labor had progressed. I had, after all, been discharged from the hospital a mere 4 hours earlier, dilated to just 2cm. A typical labor progresses at about a centimeter an hour: I couldn't be much beyond 6-7cm.
The short ride to the hospital was very uncomfortable because of the position of the baby. As we drove the 3 miles, it got even more uncomfortable, even painful. I was having contractions constantly with very little time to rest in between.
I distinctly remember saying 2 things to Gene:
1. "When we get to the hospital I think I would like to get some drugs."
2. (A couple of blocks and at least a contraction later...) "I think I'm in stage 2 of labor."
We arrived at the hospital ER and Gene drove the wrong way through the one-way parking lot. A hospital security guard ran out to stop us and Gene yelled, "my wife is in labor!". Wow, those magic words really get people hopping. The guard got me settled into a wheelchair and pushed me into the building while Gene parked the car. I remember noticing that the night was cold and clear, with slick ice crystals on the parking lot's surface.
According to the ER paperwork, which I gritted my teeth and signed between contractions, I was admitted at 23:00. I had a doozy of a contraction in the office and said to the woman, "it feels like I'm sititng on the baby's head" as I braced myself on the arms of the wheelchair in an attempt to take the weight off my pelvis.
Paperwork signed, the hospital admission staff then directed Gene to wheel me into the hallway and wait for a nurse from the 14th floor to retrieve us. It took forever and I practiced breathing through my labor pains. By this point, they were definitely "pains".
It took a while for a nursing aide to get me from the ER. By the time she did I spent much of the trip to the 14th floor panting and blowing. I felt and winced at every bump the wheelchair hit.
We arrived in the labor room. I was still wearing my fleece pajama pants and a t-shrt, my normal sleeping gear. The nurse came into the room and said that I could put on a robe if I wanted. I said to Gene that I should probably get out of my pajama bottoms while I still could but I left on my t-shirt.
The nurse returned to the room to examine me. She asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1-10. I told her that if 10 was full on labor and that because I still had a ways to go, I was probably around a 6 or 7. Then I added that my back muscles hurt like I'd worked them too hard. Her response: "I bet, sweetie".
She performed the exam and I asked how dilated I was. I was expecting to hear her respond 6 or 7cm. Instead, she said, "you're 10cm and complete, and presenting your bag of waters. You're going to have this baby!"
My first thought: Oh shit. It's too late. I'm not going to get any dugs.
At that, the nurse turned on her heel and walked out of the room to have my doctor paged and the delivery room prepped. As soon as she reached the doorway I felt a huge gush, just like in the movies. I loudly declared, "my water just broke!" I hadn't realized how loudly I said that until Gene told me later that I'd practically yelled it.
The urge to push was overwhelming. With each contraction I threw my head back and breathed hard in order to avoid the temptation to curl forward and push. I felt Gene's hand on my ankles and realized that I had braced my feet on the bed's footboard in an effort to help my body push. It was just the two of us in the room at that point and I had no choice but to avoid pushing to the best of my ability.
My rushed transfer to the delivery room was complete and I had one final challenge before I could give birth. The nurse was urging me to slide over into the room's bed, which seemed an impossible task! Somehow I managed to scoot my girth to the new bed between contractions, but it wasn't easy.
The bed was brand new and the nurses had not yet been trained on how to adjust it. They couldn't get the sides down, nor would the mattress on the drop-down foot section stay put. Every time I put my weight on it, it threatened to shoot out from under my feet.
The room was a hive of activity. The doctor had arrived and was settling into place on a stool at the foot of the bed. A friend had told me that her eyeglasses got all fogged up during her son's delivery, so I handed Gene my glasses for him to hold. I assumed that we'd be there for some time yet as I worked to push out the baby.
Everyone was in position and the nurse then said what were arguably the most wonderful words I'd ever heard: "OK, Jenn, with the next contraction you get to push". After having resisted pushing for at least the previous 30 minutes, I was so relieved to get her permission.
A contraction hit me hard and I went for it. As I pushed I could hear my own moans escalate. I briefly recalled the screams of the woman early that morning and wondered, for a split second, who could hear me.
The contraction went on forever and I push-push-push-pushed with everything I had. Everyone was urging me to keep pushing. I felt like I was nearly at my rope's end and in my frustration I started to yell the mother of all swear words:
I never got to say my full swear word.
Suddenly I felt the doctor put something on my stomach. I am tremendously nearsighted and all I could perceive was a squalling purple blob. Seconds later my son peed all over me, confirming his presence in the world. I had to ask Gene to return my glasses to me so I could see our son for the first time.
With that single, giant push, Gene and I became the parents of our beautiful son, Kaelen.
During the post-delivery monitoring a nurse said, "I've seen some women push out their babies with 6 pushes, and even as few as 2. But I've never seen a woman do it in just a single push."
I'm a Virgo. We're efficient.
The next day
I was a mini-celebrity on the delivery floor, the One Push Wonder. The nurse who'd been assigned to me for my induction stopped by to see us and express her shock that I'd not only returned mere hours after being discharged but had also delivered within 6 minutes of entering the delivery room. Every nurse who checked on either Kaelen or me during our entire hospital stay knew of our fast delivery. Even the couple who'd shared our induction nurse heard of my feat.
I can't quite believe I did it without drugs, and am thankful Gene forced me to leave for the hospital when he did. I'm convinced that had we waited another 20 minutes, we would have had a home birth (not to mention very messy sheets).
I'm also thankful that the elevators didn't get stuck when I was at the hospital. (And yes, this happened at the hosptal where I gave birth.)
Gene crashed on the cot in my room around 3. It was 4:00 a.m. before I finally got that elusive sleep, Kaelen sleeping next to me in his hospital cart.